Essom V. Ricks Jr.

[ Age 60 ] Anne Arundel County District Court judge championed the restoration of Wiley H. Bates High School.

May 22, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN REPORTER

Essom V. Ricks Jr., a retired Anne Arundel County District Court judge who pressed for renovation of the old Wiley H. Bates High School, died of cancer Thursday at Anne Arundel Medical Center. The Annapolis resident was 60.

Born in Annapolis, he was a 1964 graduate of Bates and member of its precision marching band, and had been a Boy Scout.

He earned a bachelor's degree at what is now Morgan State University, where he joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps. He served in an Army artillery repair crew in Vietnam and attained the rank of sergeant.

He subsequently earned a degree at the University of Maryland School of Law and was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1974.

He established a private practice and was general counsel for the Anne Arundel County Personnel Board in the mid-1980s. He was a member of the county's Drug and Alcohol Advisory Council from 1988 to 1995.

In 1987, he became a Circuit Court juvenile master, and in 1994 then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer named him to the county District Court. He held the judgeship until retiring May 31, 2006.

"He was a quiet and dignified man who had strongly held feelings," said former County Executive Robert R. Neall. "He was an excellent judge and worked for his county."

About 15 years ago, Judge Ricks joined others in seeking the renovation of Bates, which for 33 years was the county's lone high school for African-Americans. He became chairman of the Bates Advisory Committee, an 18-member panel charged with finding a new use for the building.

"We can be upset about the way the school looks right now," Judge Ricks told a Sun reporter in 1999. "But I am optimistic that it will finally be preserved as a monument to every child who ever went there."

In September, Judge Ricks was present for the grand opening of his old school, which at a cost of $27 million is now the Wiley H. Bates Heritage Park, with a senior center, senior apartments, legacy center and Boys and Girls Club. He led a procession into the Bates Legacy Center, the former school library that became a museum - and where a picture of Judge Ricks is displayed.

"He was a very focused person who wanted to get the doors open and get the job done," said Evelyn O.A. Darden, an attorney and Bates Legacy Center chairman. "He was a great county leader and had a passion for his old high school."

He also enjoyed listening to classical music and working with computers.

His memberships included the Anne Arundel County Bar Association, Maryland Council of Masters and Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

In 2005, Judge Ricks was honored for his "contributions to civil rights and social justice" at the county's annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. dinner.

Flags at Bates Park are at half-staff in his honor, and a scholarship fund in his name is being established through the Bates Legacy Center.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Philip's Episcopal Church, 730 Bestgate Road, Annapolis, where he was a member.

Survivors include his wife of 12 years, the former Angela Elaine McHenry; two sons, Cory DeJesus Ricks of Baltimore and Marcus A. Johnson of Annapolis; two daughters, Ricquel A. Ricks-Cumbo of Baltimore and Sheridan D. Johnson of Annapolis; a sister, Donzleigh Ricks White Dowie of St. Augustine, Fla.; and five grandchildren.

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